VINNIE GOES THE LONGEST YARDEXCLUSIVE Vinnie Jones/The Mean Machine Interview by Paul Fischer in Los Angeles.
Vinnie Jones looks something of the soccer player he was. Wearing shorts, T-shirt and sunglasses, Jones exemplifies a rare breed of movie star, a genuine manliness combined with a certain British roguish charm. These days, Vinnie, who has appeared on screen on both sides of the Atlantic, is happy to divide his time between London and Los Angeles, where he keeps residences, especially as his Hollywood career moves forward. "I mean, it's quite exciting really when you have had six movies in over 2-1/2 years, so you know, the perfect life for me is to come here for six months, do a movie and then go out, and that's what has been happening," he explains. "I did "Lock, Stock", and then came here, and did "Gone in 60 Seconds", then went out and did "Snatch", and it's been fantastic," Jones adds enthusiastically.
He next stars in the British film "The Mean Machine", which didn't fare so well here in the US. "When you do a soccer movie, you expect it to have limited appeal in the States. However, we have done so well in England at No. 3 and it's doing well in Europe. I'm sure the Aussies will love it."
A remake of the Burt Reynolds classic, "The Longest Yard", Jones plays soccer star turned prison inmate Danny Meehan, training a team of cons for a climactic match against the guards' soccer team. "Mean Machine" marks Jones' starring role in a film, where he not only gets to strutt his stuff physically, but deliver large chunks of dialogue, which he relished. "That was one of the main appeals of this I think. The films I've been doing have contained short and sweet lines and I haven't been able to express myself as much as I've wanted to. So, this is my first lead role and there are about 110 pages of dialogue which has been brilliant." What was also 'brilliant' and appealing, was that Jones was able to utilise his own soccer background for this film, but not only for his own scenes. "We gave them to other actors. I didn't want to do all the parts because the English people would have known it was from my playing days," he says laughingly.
As it is based on a classic Hollywood sports film, Jones agrees that there are some differences but as many similarities. "We have taken some real good bits that I liked out of "The Longest Yard" and put them into "Mean Machine". There are some great scenes that featured Burt Reynolds which I happily stole for "Mean Machine"." Jones adds that, "Mean Machine" also runs quite parallel but obviously ours is more updated, plus it's soccer, not American football, so it's harder to do the stunts." Jones also gets to do his first sex scene in "Mean Machine", which he did find strangely intimidating. "It was quite nerve-racking for both of us, but you bring your acting side into it and say, 'Well, look, I'm only acting' and after the first couple of takes, it's fine," he says smilingly.
While "The Mean Machine" heads to Australia, Jones also has a small US film opening here, "Night at the Golden Eagle", a very low-budget ensemble drama, in which he plays a tough pimp, in this story of a collage of low-brow characters who congregate in the seedy Golden Eagle Hotel in downtown Los Angeles.
"This bloke's a different character for me," explains Jones, who did the film as a favour and for no money. "I reckon the crack dealers down where we were shooting this were making all the money." While Jones has appeared in a few glossy Hollywood films such as "Gone in 60 Seconds" and "Swordfish", "Golden Eagle" isn't one of them, he insists.
Jones is taking a bit of a break from acting, touring the world promoting "Mean Machine". Next stop? Australia. "I'm leaving the best to last, obviously. You Aussies are wild so I'll fit in for sure." Jones has made the successful transition from soccer to movie star, and asked if he had any preference, the actor merely says "I love 'em both but it's all about the present and I just love what I'm doing now. It's a great adventure and it's very exciting for me."